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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Issue 1 - Evidence

Ottawa, Tuesday, December 12, 1995


The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred Bill C-7, respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and other substances and to amend certain other Acts and repeal the Narcotic control Act in consequence thereof, met this day, at 10:00 a.m., to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Gérald-A. Beaudoin (Chairman) in the Chair.

The Chairman: This morning we will consider Bill C-7, respecting the control of certain drugs and the Narcotic Control Act.

We have with us today witnesses from Health Canada, from the Department of Justice and from the Solicitor General of Canada.

Please proceed.

Mr. Bruce Rowsell, Director, Bureau of Drug Surveillance, Health Canada: Mr. Chairman, we will provide for you this morning some background on Bill C-7, how it proceeded through the house and why this is considered a health bill under the domain of Health Canada.

The essence of Bill C-7 is to make available for physicians and pharmacists those drugs that are needed to treat their patients. Many of the narcotic drugs under discussion are very powerful. Some are painkillers used to treat cancer and other terminal illnesses. Some are medications used to treat certain mental diseases. Some are very powerful psychoactive substances.

Because some of these substances are so powerful, they also are liable to abuse. A drug which can provide a very beneficial effect is often attractive to certain parts of society who would abuse this power.

The Narcotic Control Act and its regulations and Parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act and the appropriate regulations are the areas of legislation which currently direct these substances. These laws flow into Bill C-7.

As the titles imply, these acts deal with substances such as morphine, heroin, cocaine, codeine and other painkillers. Controlled drugs are amphetamines, certain barbiturates and sedative-type drugs.

In approximately 1961, the United Nations felt there was a need to bring together more international control over these substances. There was concern that, throughout the world, countries were not taking the same responsibility to handle drug control and drug availability for medical purposes. The UN created a single convention on narcotic drugs. This was the attempt to provide that uniform direction for the control of these substances. Canada became a signatory to that convention and, therefore, agreed to the obligations of that convention internationally.

Later, in 1971, a concern arose about psychoactive or mood-modifying substances. Again, the UN created a convention on psychoactive substances. The main concern was the diversion of many of these substances from medical practices, hospitals and pharmacies, into the illicit marketplace.

Finally, in 1988, the UN enhanced these two previous conventions with a convention that deals specifically with illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychoactive substances.

Senator Jessiman: If I may interrupt, does the second UN convention take over from the first one and add something, or are they independent of each other?

Mr. Rowsell: They complement each other. They do not replace but, rather, build upon each other.

Senator Jessiman: Has that convention ever been changed, or are we looking at the convention just as it was in 1961?

Mr. Rowsell: Since 1961, some amendments have been made to add drugs to the schedules.

Senator Jessiman: Is it the same for the 1971 and 1988 conventions?

Mr. Rowsell: The 1971 convention was amended in 1978.

Senator Jessiman: Was it amended in the same way, simply naming drugs to the various schedules?

Mr. Rowsell: They added new substances. Perhaps Mr. Saint-Denis could address this issue. He was part of the Canadian delegation which dealt with this.

Mr. Paul Saint-Denis, Senior Counsel, Department of Justice: The 1961 convention was amended particularly in the area of adding certain provisions with respect to extradition. Both the 1961 and 1971 conventions are continually amended by virtue of the fact that they add substances to the annexes. This is done through the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Periodically, as a result of work done by the World Health Organization, substances are submitted for consideration to the commission at their annual meetings. There, the members of the commission vote on whether or not to add new substances to the various legal control regimes provided with those conventions.

Since the late 1970s, no convention has been modified in terms of the various provisions, but only insofar as new substances are added.

The 1988 convention has also not been modified. However, new substances have been modified in terms of pre-cursor chemicals which are subject to its control regime.

Senator Jessiman: Are the same parties to the first conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988 the same parties as those to the other two conventions?

Mr. Saint-Denis: No, they are not. Oddly enough, different parties have ratified different conventions.

Senator Jessiman: Canada is a party to all three, is that right?

Mr. Saint-Denis: Yes.

Senator Jessiman: Is Great Britain a party to any of these conventions?

Mr. Saint-Denis: It is party to all three.

Senator Jessiman: Is Holland?

Mr. Saint-Denis: Yes.

Senator Jessiman: What about Denmark and Norway?

Mr. Saint-Denis: They are parties, yes.

Mr. Rowsell: I will now give some of the main elements that these obligations give to us.

They provide a framework for the control of the import, production, export, distribution and use of substances that can alter the mental processes and that may produce harm to health and to society when distributed or used without supervision.

They also provide for enforcement measures and make available to the enforcement agencies, that is, the police and the courts, for the interdiction and suppression of unlawful import, export, production and distribution of these controlled substances, as well as for the forfeiture of any property used or intended to be used in the commission of such offences.

As I mentioned earlier, at the present time it is the Narcotic Control Act and its regulations, and Parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act that give us those control measures now. Unfortunately, there are discrepancies between these two pieces of legislation. There is not uniform nomenclature, which is one of the other reasons why we are proposing that these two pieces of legislation be consolidated into the new piece of legislation.

In 1987, we embarked upon Canada's drug strategy. This was an initiative to bring together many facets of drug control for the country. It tried to focus on bringing together pressures to reduce the demand for these substances, as well as those measures that are used to control them or to deal with the supply of these medications.

For example, the partners in the drug strategy include provincial governments, enforcement agencies, representatives of the alcohol and drug addiction programs in various provinces and people at universities in academia. They worked together to deal with prevention strategies, to provide anti-drug messages and information to parents, as well as education to school children, in order to advise them and warn them about the dangers of these substances.

The strategy also involves treatment and rehabilitation, which is one area of the bill that was given a lot of attention when it was being reviewed by the subcommittee on Bill C-7 in the House of Commons. There was a lot of attention given to the concern that we do not necessarily look at these people as criminals but as people who have a disease. To some extent, they need help in seeking treatment and rehabilitation.

Senator Jessiman: One of the objections to the bill is that they become criminals under it.

Mr. Rowsell: They are criminals in the sense of the law. However, we also need to look at them as patients and as people who need treatment and rehabilitation to get back into society.

There was also an element of research and information and being able to gather information through surveys and other means to ensure that we are keeping abreast of the activities that were take taking place and how best to deal with them.

Finally, there is the issue of enforcement and control, which is what this bill falls under. It will improve our ability to provide the appropriate controls for these substances, allowing the enforcement agencies to deal with the illicit side of this business.

As you are aware, this bill was first introduced in the previous session of Parliament in May of 1992 as Bill C-85, entitled the Psychoactive Substances Control Act. That bill went through extensive consultations. Many witnesses appeared before the committee on it. The committee reported back to the house. Unfortunately, before it received third reading, the session ended and the bill died on the Order Paper.

Senator Carstairs: Is this an identical bill to Bill C-85?

Mr. Rowsell: No.

In this session of Parliament, the bill was first introduced as Bill C-7 and was entitled, Controlled Drugs Substances Act.

Many of these substances go beyond psychoactive substances. There were concerns that there are many chemicals which have a psychoactive effect which were not covered by the bill. Therefore, it was felt that the name should be changed. In fact, one of the recommendations made by the committee studying Bill C-85 was with respect to the change in name. They felt the name was not appropriate.

This bill went through very extensive consultations. Many of the groups that have made requests to appear before you to give their views have also made their presentations to the subcommittee. They represent health care and legal professionals, addiction research groups and those involved with substance abuse. Groups representing parents against drug abuse expressed their concerns about the efforts made to lessen penalties in this bill. Many individuals also appeared.

Many of these witnesses wanted to deal with policy matters surrounding legalization or decriminalization, or making changes to the availability of the drugs which went beyond the scope of this bill. As a result of these interventions to the committee, many members of the house felt strongly about this bill and made representations as well. Consequently, significant changes were made to the bill.

Most important, in a separate report to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, they recommended that there be a comprehensive policy review on substance abuse. The House committee has agreed to undertake a comprehensive review of those substance issues, which will be included in their agenda.

One of the concerns dealt with the schedules to the act. Early in the process, many of the witnesses expressed concern that cannabis marijuana was in Schedule I and was given the same attention as cocaine, heroin and morphine. There were changes. A new schedule was created for cannabis so that other options could be given.

One of the main concerns was that, even while we were adhering to the schedules as laid down by the United Nations and the World Health Organization, there were not good criteria for why they should be placed in various schedules. Health Canada has agreed to bring together a group of experts from throughout Canada who will develop those criteria so that we will have a better means to support putting them in one schedule versus another.

Senator Jessiman: Will that be before this act is passed?

Mr. Rowsell: No, after it is passed.

Senator Jessiman: So the government is saying that if we pass this bill now, even though some of the substances are in the wrong schedules, it will make amendments?

Mr. Rowsell: These are not necessarily amendments. It is simply ensuring that the criteria are transparent.

Senator Jessiman: There is some suggestion that some substances are in one schedule while substances with the same effect are in another.

Mr. Rowsell: You are correct. As a result of this review, there could be some schedule changes.

Senator Jessiman: Can that be done by regulation?

Mr. Rowsell: It could be done by order in council.

Senator Jessiman: Am I correct that hashish is 30 times as strong as marijuana? Is it the same thing but stronger? Tell me what cannabis is.

The Chairman: Perhaps we should finish the presentation before we get into too many detailed questions.

Mr. Rowsell: I would like to stress that many of the witnesses who appeared had a concern about the policy issues underlying the bill. I re-emphasize that the real purpose of the bill is to make many of these substances available as medicines. It is the illicit nature of these substances that has brought attention to the bill and changed the purpose for studying it.

This bill has elicited considerable pressure from the International Narcotics Control Board and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Both of these units are part of the United Nations. Canada became a signatory to the latter two parts of these conventions in the late eighties and we have not yet adjusted our legislation to accommodate our obligations.

At the present time, Canada is a conduit or a source for many of the precursor chemicals that are being used by clandestine laboratories, motorcycle gangs, et cetera, particularly for illicit substances being manufactured for the United States. The American drug enforcement agency and the Home Office in the United Kingdom have expressed to us their concern that we are not controlling these substances appropriately and that they are finding their way on to the illicit market in other countries.

As well, many manufacturers have been legally making available in large quantities a group of drugs called benzodiazepines to developing countries. These are a Valium-type substance; tranquilizers. From those countries, they have been diverted into the illicit market.

As I said, two delegations from the United Nations came to visit both members of the House and officials earlier this year. They produce an annual report. In the 1994 report, for the first time, Canada was identified for not adhering to its obligations under this convention. The report says, in part:

A few parties to the 1971 Convention, including Canada, Luxembourg, and New Zealand, do not yet control international trade in all benzodiazepines. That represents a volition of their obligations under the 1971 Convention.

In another part of the report, dealing with precursor substances, it says:

The smuggling of South American cocaine into Canada and the United States continues to be a major problem. Due to the large supply, the purity of the cocaine available on illicit markets in those countries is increasing and its price is decreasing. Crack is reported to be available and abused throughout the United States. Crack abuse is also spreading in Canada....

Although Canada ratified the 1971 Convention in 1988 and the 1988 Convention in 1990, national legislation is not yet in conformity with some of the provisions of those conventions and the Canadian authorities have not been fully implementing those provisions. There are indications that Canada is a source of benzodiazepines entering the rest of North America.

In Canada, organized gangs trafficking in methamphetamine, phencyclidine (PCP) and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) are increasingly becoming involved in illicit trafficking in precursors and other chemicals.

It is unfortunate that this legislation has taken such a long time to go through the House. However, after all of the discussion which has taken place, we have better legislation. It is certainly an improvement over what was originally introduced. The changes that were implemented in Bill C-85 and the changes made in Bill C-7 have made this a better piece of legislation and one which we are pleased to support.

I will now ask Mr. Normand to go through some of the specifics and the main features of the bill, as well as to give you some flavour of the discussions that took place when those changes were made.

The Chairman: Is it mainly on the amendments?

Mr. Gérard Normand, Counsel, Department of Justice: No, it was both. I can explain what is presently in the bill and talk about the amendments as they come along. I will try to be short.

Senator Jessiman: Were these amendments as a result of the hearings of the subcommittee?

Mr. Normand: Exactly.

The Chairman: That is useful.

Mr. Normand: There were concerns from witnesses, the members themselves, and from caucus.

It is important to understand that this bill will have the Narcotic Control Act repealed. It will not exist in Parts III and IV of the Food and Drugs Act. The purpose of the measure was not to change the policy in a major way, although we did make some slight changes. The intent was to modernize our act, which was some 30 years old.

Dealing first with the substances that this bill will cover, besides narcotics and controlled drugs that we find in Part III and restricted drugs that we find in Part IV of the Food and Drugs Act, some of the substances coming from the conventions will be added. We will be covering benzodiazepines and precursors, as Mr. Rowsell mentioned. We were originally controlling substances that are not listed but are substantially similar in their chemical structure and effects. Those were the two different components.

There were concerns coming from the legal field. The bar in Quebec made representations concerning the effect similarity clause. They felt that because we were in the domain of the criminal law, that this was too wide and could encompass just about anything.

Late in the game, the people from the herbal companies were also concerned about this clause, although we never believed that this clause would affect the herbal products at all because of the way that it was structured, and we explained that to them.

Nevertheless, the clause dealing with effect similarity has been deleted. It is not in the bill any more. What has remained, though, are designer drugs. These are substances that are not listed but have a chemical structure substantially similar to drugs that are listed. Those will continue to be covered. They are effectively the drugs that are produced by clandestine laboratories. They will simply take a substance, change a few molecules so that it does not fit the schedules, and sell it. The chemical structure is so similar that the effect would be the same as well. It is important to understand that the effect similarity clause has been deleted from this bill.

Because of that clause, we had a clause that excluded tobacco and alcohol from the bill since it was not the intent of this legislation to deal with those two products. They could have fallen under this effect similarity clause. When we decided to take out the effect similarity clause, at the same time we took out the clause exempting or excluding tobacco because it was no longer needed.

As far as the substances are concerned, I will give you a few examples. Currently the possession of the drugs speed and ice is not controlled, whereas it will be controlled under Bill C-7. We feel that that is an important step.

Senator Jessiman: Is it similar to something else?

Mr. Normand: No, we are talking about metamphetamine and amphetamine. They already exist in the schedules, but the possession element is not currently controlled. People can carry them and it is not an offence. Those are hard drugs, and the possession of them will now become an offence under this new legislation.

As mentioned earlier, many people had concerns about seeing cannabis in Schedule I with the other drugs. Because it is dealt with differently as far as trafficking, possession, and production in certain aspects, we decided to put cannabis in a completely separate schedule. It is now in Schedule II.

Senator Carstairs: Is that the only drug in that schedule?

Mr. Normand: In that schedule currently, yes.

As Mr. Rowsell mentioned, there has been a recommendation to create a group of experts to establish criteria for a scheduling of drugs in the future.

Essentially, what we have now is the same types of control that currently exists for the existing drugs that are controlled except for metamphetamine and amphetamine which are being controlled from a possession perspective.

As far as the offences and penalties in general, as Mr. Rowsell mentioned, we had some problems with certain definitions. The definition of "trafficking" in one statute, for example, was not exactly the same as in the other one. The notion of "give" was lacking in one of them. By bringing that together, we are consolidating and bettering our drug legislation as a whole.

As far as dealing specifically with one of the definitions of trafficking, we had a new notion inserted. "Provided" was intended to cover the prescribing aspect. If a doctor would have prescribed illegally, according to the regulations, then he could have been charged with trafficking. This caused some concerns to the Canadian Medical Association. The CMA felt that doctors could be in a situation where if they do not prescribe correctly or legally, they could be charged under the administrative part, which was to have their license suspended, and at the same time be charged for trafficking. It was not clear as to which side one could go, and it could go on both sides.

In order to clarify that, we are providing that it is an offence to sell a prescription. If you sell a prescription either for money or in some circumstances for sex, as we know happens, that will be the trafficking aspect. If a doctor simply prescribes in a bad fashion, or something, that will not be dealt with by the legislation but by the administrative regimes. The colleges will see that this does not occur again. We will not be able to charge that person for trafficking unless he sells the prescriptions.

The notion of "production" has been added. Currently the word "manufacture" is found under trafficking. We have created an offence of production that encompasses cultivation and any other unforeseen forms of production that may come in the future. This offence is new and has been expanded.

As far as the import and export, it does not change much except there is now an offence of possession for the purpose of exporting. This existed in the Food and Drugs Act but not in the Narcotic Control Act. If someone possesses for that specific purpose, it is now a new offence.

Dealing specifically now with cannabis with regard to possession and trafficking, the simple possession offence of cannabis as it first started in Bill C-85 and was amended in C-7 -

Senator Jessiman: What is cannabis?

Mr. Normand: Cannabis involves marijuana, hashish, and oil. Those are the three main components.

Senator Jessiman: Hashish is part of cannabis?

Mr. Normand: Yes.

Senator Jessiman: If you say hashish, it is hashish, but if you say cannabis, it is hashish plus something else?

Mr. Normand: When you talk about cannabis, you talk about marijuana, hashish, hash oil. They are all components under cannabis.

The Chairman: Perhaps we should have a lecture on the drug.

Mr. Rowsell: The subcommittee also had the same question. We have a document that shows you a cannabis plant and separates out the distinction between cannabis, marijuana, and hash. Hash is the resin, and hash oil is the oil that comes out of the plant. They are of higher potency than the marijuana, which are the leaves and the flowers. We will provide that document for you.

Senator Jessiman: Thank you.

Mr. Normand: The two major concerns which were brought by the witnesses and the subcommittee members concerned possession of cannabis. Sometimes they use "marijuana" and "cannabis" interchangeably.

The second concern involved the rehabilitation and preventions aspects about which Mr. Rowsell spoke. I will tell you more about that later.

On possession of cannabis, for the most part, the status quo remains. We had proposed to increase the fine from $1,000 to $2,000 because, in 1985, when we amended the Criminal Code, all summary offences were brought up to a fine level of $2,000.

That proposal was not well received. Some people were saying that possession should be decriminalized. Some said the fine should be reduced. Others said that cannabis possession should be legalized.

We did not have a mandate to change policy under this bill, so we could not go as far as decriminalization. We came up with some figures. Possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana or 1 gram of hashish will now be a summary conviction offence only. It will not be a hybrid offence as it is now.

In crimes dealing with those quantities, the maximum penalty will always be six months or $1,000 or both. The present range of penalty for possession of those quantities is either, as a summary offence, a maximum of $1,000 or six months; or, as an indictable offence, a maximum of seven years. In addition, because this offence will only a summary conviction offence, the Identification of Criminals Act does not apply.

Senator Jessiman: Is that for the first offence only? Is this a license to smoke?

Mr. Normand: This applies to any offence.

Senator Jessiman: You are telling us the maximum. What is the practice? What are the judges actually charging someone for possession?

Mr. Normand: It all depends where you are. I have been a prosecutor in Hull and Valleyfield. In Valleyfield, the going fine was $75. In Hull, the usual fine was $100. It varies from one region to another.

Senator Jessiman: What are the ranges? What could the highest fine for a first conviction be, that you know about? Would it be $100.00?

Mr. Normand: It may be $150 to $200. I do not know. Most of the time, a fine will be given.

Senator Jessiman: I know the distinction here. There is no crime, so you can do it any number of times?

Mr. Rowsell: No, there is a crime.

Mr. Normand: That is a misperception.

Senator Jessiman: I read somewhere here that it will not be a crime. Offenders will not be fingerprinted; they will have no record.

Mr. Normand: Offenders are not fingerprinted but they will have a criminal record. If we removed the criminal record, we would have decriminalized the offence. We did not decriminalize the offence. There is no fingerprinting because possession will be a summary conviction offence only.

Senator Carstairs: This is an interesting issue. If a judge decides to use the sentencing provision and does in fact send someone to jail for six months - I know that does not usually happen out there, but it could happen - how do you prevent the person from being criminalized? I am sure every penal institution in the country requires inmates to be fingerprinted.

The Chairman: Perhaps the witnesses could elaborate. Possession is still a crime but it is a summary conviction offence. That is quite different.

Mr. Normand: As some of you may know, offences which are strictly summary conviction offences are very rare in the Criminal Code. One of the few is disturbing the peace. In other words, this is the lowest step before decriminalizing the offence. This is the bottom. As far as the penalty is concerned, we stick to what the current levels of six months or $1,000 for a summary conviction offence.

When someone is arrested or detained, the Identification of Criminals Act provides that a police officer may fingerprint and/or take a photograph at the time of arrest for the purpose of identifying a criminal. Once the person is convicted, the fingerprint and the photo are sent to the central database. That system will continue. However, if you are not fingerprinted, your file does not go into this central database.

Senator Jessiman: No photographs will be taken?

Mr. Normand: Right. So the criminal record will exist but it will be difficult to trace. The usual practice is to search CPIC, the central registry controlled by the RCMP.

Senator Jessiman: This applies no matter how many offences occur?

Mr. Normand: Yes.

Senator Jessiman: Let us assume that the fine is $100 or $150. A person who really likes to smoke will say that this is a license to smoke.

Senator DeWare: If an offender is back for the third time, what happens?

Senator Jessiman: He can go back any number of times and still pay the same fine. I do not know the attitude of the judges on this. Even a judge who sees the same offender reappearing has the same options.

Senator DeWare: Is there not a subsequent offence?

Mr. Rowsell: No, not for possession.

Mr. Normand: There is a subsequent penalty provision for offences above 30 grams or above 1 gram of hashish or any other cannabis product.

The Chairman: Can you explain why you are doing that now?

Mr. Normand: Most of the groups, including the groups who will be here tomorrow and Thursday, came to us and said that we were going the wrong way and that we should either decriminalize or legalize and let government control the sale of drugs. There was also a lot of pressure coming from some Canadian members.

The Canadian Bar Association wants us to decriminalize. The consensus among the three departments was that this is as low as we could go without a specific mandate to change policy. This would have been a major policy change. This is one reason the subcommittee recommended that a drug control policy review be undertaken by a parliamentary committee.

Senator Jessiman: This is over and above the question of the substances themselves?

Mr. Normand: Yes. This would be a major issue as it has been in Canada and in many countries for decades.

At this stage, you are correct to say that a reoffender's record cannot be traced for this type of criminal record. He will always be a first offender before the court, unless he lives in a very small community and the judge knows everyone, as is the case in Valleyfield. In Toronto, there will be no way to be recognized.

This amendment satisfied the subcommittee members because the bill and the amendments were adopted unanimously. You probably read comments from people such as Neil Boyd who came before the subcommittee and said we are going in the right direction.

As far as trafficking is concerned, possession of any quantity of cannabis for the purpose of trafficking is an indictable offence, period. The maximum sentence is life. The accused has the right to a preliminary inquiry and trial by judge and jury.

In order to better reflect the laying of charges - sometimes the offence involves very small quantities - instead of laying a charge of trafficking, police officers would lay a charge of possession, which is a summary conviction offence. This would avoid the necessity of a preliminary inquiry.

What we have done - and this existed under Bill C-85 as well - is create a hybrid offence for trafficking. The Crown can proceed by way of summary conviction or by way of indictment, depending on the case and the amounts involved. An allowance was set at 10 kilograms. It then went down to one and was brought back to up to three kilograms. It remains at three kilograms. This hybrid offence provision had a maximum sentence of 14 years by indictment and two years by summary conviction.

The latest amendment has created an indictable offence with absolute jurisdiction, which means that although it is an indictable offence, only a provincial court judge will be able to hear those cases. There is no preliminary inquiry and no trial before a judge and jury. The maximum penalty has been reduced to five years less a day. Why five years less a day? If an offence is punishable by five years or more, the Charter guarantees the right of a hearing before a jury. We respect the Charter by going five years less a day.

Some people have said that we are reducing the maximum again. The answer to that is that although the maximum sentence was 14 years for an indictable offence and two years for a summary conviction offence, we know that 95 per cent of these cases would have been charged by way of summary conviction. The maximum sentence would have been two years in most all cases. For all those cases that would have been charged with a maximum two-year penalty, the penalty will now be five years less a day.

Data going back to 1990 and 1991 shows that trafficking in quantities of 10 kilograms or less of cannabis rarely triggers a penalty above two years' imprisonment. That is where we got the 10 kilogram quantity under Bill C-85.

Dealing with offences and penalties in general, we also expanded a clause dealing with aggravating factors. This means that trafficking to a youth or through a youth in a school or around a school yard constitutes an aggravating factor. The court will have to justify when not to impose a jail term. This is a clear message from the Parliament of Canada to the Canadian population. The subcommittee added a general approach stating that the offence would include any other place usually frequented by youth, such as arcades. If an adult trafficks in an arcade, that act constitutes an aggravating factor for the purpose of sentencing. However, the offence remains the same for the purpose of sentencing.

Senator Jessiman: If the trafficker is not put in jail, the judge must give reasons.

Mr. Normand: Exactly.

Senator Jessiman: Do the reasons have to be in writing?

Mr. Normand: The reasons do not have to be in writing. The judge always has the option of giving his judgement verbally or in writing. Of course, you always have a transcript, and that becomes the written judgment.

Senator Jessiman: Yes.

Mr. Normand: People have said that this bill does not give any indication of rehabilitation.

Mr. Rowsell mentioned that the way Canada's drug strategy works is that 70 per cent of our resources go towards prevention, rehabilitation and treatment, and 30 per cent go towards enforcement. In the United States, the allocation is completely the opposite in that 70 per cent go towards enforcement and 30 per cent to rehabilitation, treatment and education. As a start, the strategy has focused in areas where Canadians wanted it to focus.

You have recently dealt with a piece of legislation related to reforming the sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code. That reform put into a statute what had been decided by the courts over the last 20 or 30 years as far as sentencing is concerned. In essence, a judge shall take into consideration rehabilitation when imposing a sentence. That fact is now codified. Now, this legislation has not been proclaimed, but it has been adopted.

Our approach to the suggestion that we put something in this legislation was to say that it is in the code, and the provisions of the code will, by way of the Interpretation Act, apply to any criminal law statute, including this statute. Nevertheless, we decided to add a clause in this bill to deal with that situation. It reflects what we find in Bill C-41, the sentencing provision bill related to the code. It reflects that a judge shall take into consideration, where appropriate, rehabilitation and treatment in handing down sentences. The same message that was sent in the reform of the Criminal Code provisions will be sent here. With this drug legislation, people will not be able to say that we do not have an approach of dealing with rehabilitation and treatment where appropriate.

Under the Narcotic Control Act, we can only seize substances or ask for warrants. We can seize any additional things we may find in a search. If we know of the presence of drugs in advance, technically we would need two warrants to seize other things: one under the Narcotic Control Act and one under the Criminal Code. The search and seizure provisions of Bill C-7 will resolve this problem. Through the warrant provisions under Bill C-7, we will be able, with only one warrant, to seize substances and any other things that will be required. It is a much more comprehensive scheme.

This is something that has been raised by the Supreme Court of Canada on many occasions in dealing with section 10 of the Narcotic Control Act. The court said that the Narcotic Control Act does not provide a warrantless power to search a specific dwelling. If police officers were aware that there were drugs in a house, they went inside and secured the house while one of the police officers went to get a written warrant to come back. The Supreme Court said that even securing the house is a type of search and seizure. They decided to keep the evidence under section 24(2) as being valid, but they warned police officers that this will not be possible in the future unless section 10 is amended. It is up to Parliament to do so.

Bill C-7 will correct that situation by providing for warrantless search powers in extreme circumstances where evidence could be lost.

Senator DeWare: Yes, or destroyed.

Mr. Normand: Police officers be able to seize these substances and other things. This will be of some help to the law enforcement officials in Canada.

Senator Carstairs: You said "substances and other things". What other things?

Mr. Normand: You could have an offence related property or money.

Mr. Rowsell: Laboratory equipment, for example.

Mr. Normand: You can only ask for a warrant for drugs under the Narcotic Control Act. If you happen to be on the spot at the time of the seizure and you see something else that you have grounds to believe is linked to the crime, you could seize it. However, before going to the premises in question, if you knew of the existence of things other than drugs, technically, you would need two warrants, one under the Narcotic Control Act and one under the Criminal Code. Bill C-7 solves that problem.

The Chairman: That is a good thing.

Senator Lewis: You are talking about seizure and, following from that, forfeiture. I gather that real property is exempt.

Mr. Normand: You are dealing with offence-related property?

Senator Lewis: Yes.

Mr. Normand: I will give you some background on that. This notion is a new notion. Currently what we have under the Narcotic Control Act and Food and Drugs Act are specific properties like money, needles, and so on - that is, things that were used for the commission of the crime and conveyances, namely, means of transportation. For offence-related property the approach has been to define the term rather than specifying what the term will be. Real property has been excluded.

Senator Jessiman: Up to now?

Mr. Normand: It is still excluded except for a late amendment, which will deal with fortified drug houses. The way that the definition has been amended will cover real estate that has been built or significantly modified for the purposes of facilitating the commission of a crime, of a designated drug offence.

The Chairman: But they are subject.

Mr. Normand: They are subject now.

The Chairman: And they will remain subject.

Senator Jessiman: They are not now under the present law.

The Chairman: It is about time that they are.

Mr. Normand: This notion of offence-related property is something that was required by the conventions, and we still have our narrowed approach.

Senator Lewis: Real property is excluded, apart from that exception?

Mr. Normand: Yes.

Senator Lewis: What does real property include? Does it not include, say, trees on the property? We have all heard about marijuana plants being seized, but if that is part of the property, how can they be seized?

Mr. Normand: You are not seizing the real estate; you are seizing the crop.

Senator Lewis: Is it a crop when it is in the ground or when it is cultivated or harvested?

Mr. Rowsell: Both.

Mr. Normand: If we want to be technical, there is power in the Narcotic Control Act that will remain, which allows for the Minister of Health to cut it.

Senator Lewis: What is that under?

Mr. Normand: I think it is under the Narcotic Control Act.

Mr. Rowsell: Yes. We have authority to destroy under the Narcotic Control Act.

Mr. Saint-Denis: If you look at Part II of the bill, under the search and seizure powers, law enforcement officers will be entitled to seize different categories of things, one of them being controlled substances. A controlled substance would include a plant in the ground. It would also allow peace officers to seize offence-related property, excluding, by and large, real property. There is no overlap, but there is no contradiction between the ability of a peace officer to seize a controlled substance such as the marijuana plant or an offence-related property.

Senator Lewis: But is the plant itself a controlled substance or is it not?

Mr. Saint-Denis: Yes, it is.

Senator Lewis: Must something be done with it, as, for example, with opium?

Mr. Normand: We have something in clause 2 that says that something that has a listed substance on it forms part of the substance itself. For example, if the plant contains the ingredient which is THC, the essential element in cannabis - and, in hash oil that TCH level may go from 15 to 25 to 75 per cent, which is very potent - the plant itself has THC. That is the element that we want to control.

Senator Lewis: I notice that under the definition it talks about producing the substance when it does become a substance. You are covered, in other words, under these other provisions?

Mr. Normand: Yes.

The Chairman: Is the word "substance" defined in your act?

Mr. Normand: No. We defined "controlled substance".

The Chairman: But the word "substance" appears everywhere. Is it not defined?

Mr. Normand: The only word we defined is "controlled substance". Most of the time we use "controlled substance", which is defined as being those things in the schedules except for precursors, which are not controlled substances per se by definition but which are also covered in the legislation.

The Chairman: Could you add substances by order in council?

Mr. Normand: Yes, as we can currently do so. We have been receiving some surprising comments. Many witnesses thought this was new but that power has existed for 30 some years. The order in council has always had the authority to add substances to the schedule and to change it. This is nothing new at all. However, it is important for you for understand the difference between offence-related and proceeds of crime. Offence-related is something that you use to commit the offence. Proceeds of crime is something that you buy with the money that you have made, for example, in selling drugs. If you buy a car with drug money, the car is proceeds. If you use the car to go and do trafficking, the car is offence-related property. In both instances, we can seize and forfeit, as long as we can prove the connection. First, you need a conviction on the drug offence and you need to be able to prove the connection between the property and the crime.

Senator Lewis: Does that cover purchasing real estate from the proceeds?

Mr. Normand: Yes. Real estate proceeds is there. You have numerous examples of that, such as people buying condominiums. First, we can restrain, which is the same as seizure. But when you cannot hold something - that is, when it is not a movable asset - one talks about restraint rather than seizure, but it involves the same type of control.

The Chairman: Can you seize something if it is immovable?

Mr. Normand: No. You restrain it. It is a restraint order then. For a building, you will use a restraint order instead of seizing it.

Senator Lewis: On that point, the restraint order is an order of the court, I take it?

Mr. Normand: Yes.

Senator Lewis: Are there provisions regarding the protection of an innocent third party who might purchase that property?

Mr. Normand: Yes.

Senator Lewis: An innocent purchaser is one who buys without knowledge and has used due diligence. That is really what it amounts to. However, for the ordinary person, that is rather difficult. What means would he have of finding out whether or not there was a restraint order? He would have to search all court records, would he not, or are they registered in the registry department?

Mr. Normand: Mr. Saint-Denis will be able to talk in greater detail than I, but there are provisions in the code and in our bill that provide that a judge, before making a restraint order, must make sure that the owner, or whoever has an interest in the property, is contacted and made aware that a restraint order will be made, or that the judge has the intention of making one, so that that person can be heard if that person wishes.

Senator Lewis: The judge would then have to cause a search to be made to see who the actual owner is and he will then be notified?

Mr. Normand: Yes.

Mr. Rowsell: In many cases, these are rented properties and there may be an itinerant owner who is away.

The Chairman: Could we hear from Mr. Saint-Denis on this?

Mr. Saint-Denis: I am not sure now if we have switched from proceeds to offence-related property, or if we are still dealing with proceeds. Actually, in both cases there are provisions in the code with respect to proceeds, and in this bill there are provisions with respect to offence-related property, which is real property - that is, the fortified drug houses - that give the court the wherewithal to notify potential interested parties in the property.

With respect to registration, in some instances a restraint order will be registered in the provincial registry so that it is possible for third parties to be aware of the procedures in respect to the property in which they have an interest.

Senator Lewis: Did you say "in some instances"? Is it not in all instances?

Mr. Saint-Denis: Technically, it would apply to all the provinces. However, it has not been done in every province. I cannot tell you for sure this will happen. The code allows for a restraint order to be registered.

Senator Lewis: It does not state that it "shall" provide but that it "can" be provided?

Mr. Saint-Denis: I believe it is "shall". The practice has not yet borne this out. Therefore, I cannot tell you that it has happened in every province. It has happened in the two or three provinces in which we have used this provision.

Mr. Normand: The last point deals with powers of inspectors. When we deal with inspectors, we are now dealing with police officers. Their sole purpose is to ensure that the regulations are complied with. The regulations deal with practitioners, pharmacists, hospitals, and so on. They go around and inspect to make sure that everything is done according to the regulations. In other words, Health Canada issues licences, permits or authorizations to persons under the understanding that they must follow the regulations. These people know that in advance. As some people may think, it is not an invasion of privacy if an inspector walks into a place to ensure that everything is done according to the regulations. They usually phone in advance.

The approach is different from having a police officer knock at your door at 10:00 in the morning wanting to seize something. One is a business-type recognition that this may happen; the other is that a police officer will go there to seize something.

I am raising this matter because the inspectors have a power to seize things as well.

Senator Jessiman: Do they have to have reasonable grounds before going in?

Mr. Normand: No. An inspector may visit any place at any reasonable time. It has to be a reasonable time.

Senator Jessiman: Even if he does not have reasonable grounds?

Mr. Normand: Yes. He is not going there with the intent of doing anything. For instance, pharmacists have certain drugs that must be kept behind closed doors. If he goes in and sees those drugs on the counter, then that is an infraction. He may then choose to seize temporarily those drugs in order to allow the pharmacist time to build a proper cabinet.

Senator Jessiman: Can he knock on my door asking to inspect my premises?

Mr. Normand: No.

Senator Jessiman: In other words, there must be some reason for going. These people have the kinds of things that he may be looking for.

Mr. Normand: Yes.

Senator Carstairs: We are dealing completely with illegal products here. Under some circumstances, however, they are legal. For example, heroin may be provided to a hospital for treatment of people receiving chemotherapy. Under those circumstances an inspector can go in, without any notification, to ensure that that heroin is being used and stored appropriately.

Mr. Normand: Yes.

The Chairman: The police cannot do that, although an inspector can.

Mr. Normand: The police must have reasonable grounds to believe that you are doing something else. The inspector has a right to seize sometimes.

The Chairman: Without a warrant?

Mr. Normand: Yes, without a warrant. However, the seizure is not for the purpose of gathering evidence. The seizure is simply for the purpose of ensuring that the regulations will be respected. In the part dealing with inspectors, we see that he has the obligation to give back whatever he has seized, when he is satisfied that the regulations are being complied with. If it takes too much time, then he gives whatever he has found or seized to the Minister of Health, who will decide what to do with it. It is not at all the same. It does not lead to a charge being laid and a criminal conviction being recorded. It does not lead to this being used as evidence in a court.

The Supreme Court has recognized that the two approaches are completely different. Administrative seizures do not infringe on privacy.

The Chairman: If they do it that way, is it in accordance with the Charter?

Mr. Normand: Yes.

The Chairman: If they do not do it that way, then the case of the Supreme Court will apply.

Senator Carstairs: Can we use a hypothetical situation again? Let us say there is an announcement that a hospital will close. An inspector goes in and seizes the heroin that may be on the shelves because he or she has good reason to believe that, since there will not be any patients, this heroin could obviously get into uses for which it was not ever intended. Is that the kind of thing to which you are referring?

Mr. Rowsell: Correct. Another example would be a pharmaceutical manufacturer who produced a large quantity of codeine or morphine tablets and for some reason they were subpotent; they did not meet the potency level which they were supposed to meet. The inspector could seize those and say, "You cannot sell those because they do not meet our quality standards."

The Chairman: What worries me is you say that the inspector can do such a thing, but he must go along with the obligations set out in the act. What is the difference between the two? This was a case before the courts on this point.

Mr. Normand: I do not recall the exact case. I know that Wholesale Travel was one dealing with the administrative seizure approach.

It has been recognized that section 8 of the Charter, which deals with unreasonable search and seizure, triggers a much lower privacy breach in the administrative areas than in any other criminal areas.

The only purpose of the inspector seizing something when visiting somewhere is only to take it temporarily to ensure that the regulations are being complied with. As Mr. Rowsell mentioned, if it is not potent enough or secure enough, then he may take it. The legislation imposes the obligation to bring it back as soon as the regulations are complied with. The outcome is not at all the same. If a police officer obtains a warrant it is because there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence had been committed under the statute. Whatever is seized will be used as evidence in court; it will not be brought back to the person. There is nothing with which to comply because it was a criminal offence that happened. The approaches are completely different.

There may be situations in which an inspector will go beyond his powers. After all, humans are humans. On occasion, if someone learns that there is an offence, they may use these powers to seize for criminal law purposes. If that happens, then the courts will quash that search and say that it was illegal and that whatever was found will not be admitted into evidence under section 24(2) of the Charter.

The powers set out in Bill C-7 are clear. On the one hand there are the criminal law powers to seize. On the other hand there are the administrative powers to seize, in a very specific context.

The powers of the inspectors have not been amplified but clarified and modernized. We now talk about the possibility of inspecting electronic data because that is the way that things are going. Currently, we have no such provision. We have modernized and clarified the powers.

When I say "we", I am talking about the subcommittee as a whole.

There was a clarification dealing with the medical records of patients. Some concern was expressed by more than one group that inspectors might be seen as having the power to inspect medical files of patients when they go into practitioner's offices. In order to avoid any possible problem, the powers of inspectors have been clearly exempted within the act.

Senator Jessiman: It has been amended?

Mr. Normand: Yes. It does not allow them to inspect personal medical files of patients. This is now clear in the legislation.

There are other things to say about the bill or the amendments but, generally speaking, those are the main aspects of Bill C-7.

The Chairman: I always ask the same question regarding all amendments to the Criminal Code and other related acts.

I understand that the Department of Justice has certified that nothing is against the Charter of Rights and freedoms, as is its usual practice. Has that been done?

Mr. Normand: That is right.

Senator Jessiman: Or the Bill of Rights?

The Chairman: Yes.

Mr. Normand: Mr. Saint-Denis, who represents the criminal law policy section, and myself, as an official from another department, were involved in this process. Essentially, when the bill was brought up, this process was verified. The amendments that were proposed at the same time went through the same procedure. At the Department of Justice, we feel that there is nothing in the proposed amendments that would infringe the charter in any way.

The Chairman: And the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court?

Mr. Normand: Exactly. On search and seizure, for example, we have taken into consideration those comments made by the Supreme Court and we have made some changes in order to respect those comments.

Senator Jessiman: The simple possession of precursors is not a crime?

Mr. Normand: No.

Senator Jessiman: It is only a crime if you are producing it or trafficking in it?

Mr. Normand: The only control we have on precursors is the importation and exportation of them.

Senator Jessiman: Do you mean with the trafficking part of it?

Mr. Normand: No, not trafficking, the import and export of them.

Senator Jessiman: I always took importing to mean trafficking, but it does not. It means that you are bringing it into the country, period, not necessarily giving it to someone else.

Mr. Normand: Currently in the Food and Drugs Act, "traffick" includes import. That may be wherein they lie.

Mr. Rowsell: Some of these substances have valid industrial uses, so we will have licences for them to be imported for legal purposes.

Senator Jessiman: Yes. Hemp is an example. What is THC?

Mr. Rowsell: Tetrahydrocannabinol.

Senator Jessiman: There is a problem with hemp, too, is there not? You can use hemp in clothing, ropes, and so on, and you can produce drugs as a result of it.

Mr. Rowsell: Hemp comes from the cannabis plant and is usually referred to as having a very low THC level.

Senator Jessiman: Are all these drugs measured with THC? Is that the measurement?

Mr. Rowsell: That is the generally recognized substance that has the hallucinogenic properties. The difference between a hemp plant and a marijuana plant is dramatic. Usually marijuana is grown as a small or a low bush, with lots of leaves and flowers. The hemp plant is grown like corn. You want it to grow as tall as you can with few leaves and flowers and a long stalk because it is the fibre in the stalk that is used for textiles, wood products, paper, or other purposes. They are different varieties of the same basic plant family but have very different properties.

Senator Jessiman: By growing the plant for hemp, from where do you get the concern that it will be used for something else?

Mr. Rowsell: The difficulty arose in that, even in the international legislation, the plant was simply referred to as cannabis. In the current Narcotic Control Act, we have provision that the minister may issue a licence for research purposes. That was intended to allow for research for medical purposes. If you determined that a substance from one of these plants may have had medical benefits, then a person could do research under those conditions.

Under Bill C-7, we are now opening that up. It would eventually allow for regulations that could permit the industrial application of hemp. This law would allow Canada to begin to get into the commercial hemp business, which they could not have done before.

Senator Jessiman: I think I read that - and, you tell me if I am wrong - at one point, Norway was very criminalized or open, somewhat like Great Britain. They looked at the health part of drug use and did not criminalize it. Now the policy is "no tolerance". Is that correct? Do you know whether or not Norway has done that? Have they reversed that policy? I read that somewhere. There seems to be two schools of thought about this.

Mr. Saint-Denis: There may be three or four schools of thought concerning the domestic regime which is applied to drug use. It ranks from extremely benign to extremely severe.

Senator Jessiman: The United States is on the more severe side, is it?

Mr. Saint-Denis: No. There are countries in the Middle East and in Asia where the death penalty is applied to traffickers.

By and large, most countries have, to my knowledge - at least on the books - statutes to deal with these substances in a criminal fashion. Large differences usually occur in the way that those statutes are applied. In some countries, particularly European countries, the policy will be that, inspite of the statute stating "X", "Y" or "Z", peace officers will apply the law slightly differently.

Senator Jessiman: And the judges too, perhaps.

Mr. Saint-Denis: Yes, and the judges as well.

In terms of how Canada is situated, it would appear, to someone who is not familiar with our legal regime, that our statutes are somewhat severe in that maximum imprisonment of life is provided for in respect of a number of substances. But the actual sentencing practices are considerably different. We allow our judges considerable discretion in applying the sentence. In most instances, sentences imposed are at the lower end of the spectrum rather than at the high end. To my knowledge, there are almost no cases - in fact, there are extremely rare cases of life being imposed on a drug trafficker.

Senator Jessiman: This is in Canada?

Mr. Saint-Denis: Right. It has happened, but it is a rare thing. For possession cases involving marijuana, usually there is a low level fine and quite frequently conditional and unconditional discharges are handed out. Of course, within Canada there are certain disparities as to sentencing practices also.

If you had to place Canada on an international scale, we are probably closer to the more moderate regimes than we are to the more severe regimes.

Senator Jessiman: I read also - whether I believe it or not is another thing - that in the graduating class at Osgoode last year, 85 per cent said that they smoked marijuana, or whatever, and 70 per cent said that they would continue to do so.

I am a lawyer. We are officers of the court. There is something wrong there.

Senator DeWare: Statistics say that marijuana is not any more addictive than cigarettes.

Senator Jessiman: They say that no one dies from smoking marijuana, but 35,000 die from smoking cigarettes.

Mr. Rowsell: That is because we do not collect the data.

Senator Jessiman: Do you think they could? Does it affect your life?

Mr. Rowsell: Yes.

Senator Jessiman: So it is simply that we do not have the data on it.

Mr. Saint-Denis: It is somewhat disturbing. Hearing about 85 per cent of the graduating class from Osgoode bodes ill for the legal profession, but that is another thing.

You must be able to compare equals with equals. The fact is that tobacco users tend to use their substance quite a lot, on a daily basis quite a lot, and over a long period of time quite a lot, whereas with drug users - and we are talking about marijuana smokers - the practice is considerably less. If you were to subject marijuana users to the same intake of smoke from their substance as you would subject the tobacco users to their substance, you might find that the medical evidence tends to show that there is not necessarily a large difference between the long-term ill effects on the body.

Senator Carstairs: But they are not usually smoking 40 a day.

Mr. Saint-Denis: That is correct.

Senator Jessiman: A number of doctors also came before the House of Commons subcommittee and said that we are wrong and being hypocritical. We have a law that is not being enforced. We are now reducing it. If the judges continue to impose fines of $100 or $50 and if they are only charged once a month, someone will say that it is worth it.

Mr. Rowsell: They were not medical doctors, though.

Senator Jessiman: There was a doctor with a group of professors.

Mr. Normand: Dealing with the approach taken as far as drug offences are concerned, the case of R. v. Hammond was pleaded in the Court of Appeal of Quebec. Mr. Hammond said that the laws on possession of cannabis and cultivating cannabis being a crime went against his rights under the Charter.

At the trial stage and then at the court of appeal, there was all kinds of testimony from doctors. It was a lengthy case. The Court of Appeal came to the conclusion that there was sufficient evidence there to show that it was damaging to your health in order for this offence to be kept there. The offence of possessing and cultivating has been found by one of the Courts of Appeal in Canada to be consistent with the Charter.

This is important.

Senator Jessiman: Was that just recently?

Mr. Normand: That was two or three years ago.

Senator Jessiman: You have not had a Supreme Court case since that?

Mr. Normand: The Supreme Court did not hear this case.

Senator Carstairs: I wish to open the area of the medical use of drugs, because we have not addressed that this morning. I should like to know from you what has changed with respect to the use of heroin and cannabis as drugs for medicinal purposes under this legislation.

The cannabis people would tell us that you have made no provision for marijuana whatsoever, and yet we know it is used by AIDS and chemotherapy patients. What is happening here?

Mr. Rowsell: With respect to cannabis, there are two preparations available in Canada that contain THC or a derivative of THC that are used for cancer treatment. One is Sesanet, and I cannot remember the brand name of the other.

The Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. had undertaken some clinical studies looking at the use of cannabis for treating cancer patients, for use in glaucoma, and in use as an anti-emetic preparation against, nausea associated with some of these conditions. The results of those studies did not show any benefit from cannabis at this point in time.

There will still be provision in the law for research to be carried out in these areas. If, eventually, there was a derivative of cannabis that could be used for medical purposes, that could be accommodated through the regulations.

Mr. Normand: It is important to understand that the act is there. The act prohibits, and the regulations authorize. When you talk about heroin or cannabis being used for medical purposes, you will find that in the regulations, not in the act.

Mr. Rowsell: Heroin is available today for use in medicine. It is restricted to use in a hospital. That was basically upon the request of physicians for security purposes, and so on, and terminally ill patients. Patients may take it away from the hospital, if necessary, but it is delivered through a hospital system, and it is available.

Senator Carstairs: Can it be used in an out-patient palliative care treatment mode?

Mr. Rowsell: Yes.

Senator Carstairs: That leads to my final question, namely, why would you take action in regard to heroin - and appropriately so, as I think it is quite a legitimate treatment for end-of-life decisions - but not with respect to cannabis?

Mr. Rowsell: There certainly is good evidence of the painkilling ability of heroin and its ability to act in medical terms. We do not have the evidence yet for cannabis.

Senator Carstairs: Yet one is so much stronger.

Mr. Rowsell: There is quite a difference in potency between the two substances.

Senator Carstairs: Yes. Heroin is much more potent than cannabis. There is certainly much anecdotal evidence that chemo patients, even if they are not getting any pain relief, are getting a relaxant effect. I find that quite bizarre.

Senator DeWare: How does the medical profession feel about the bill? Will it deter their ability to prescribe drugs in any way?

Mr. Normand: Not at all. The regulations that will come with this bill maintain status quo until a comprehensive review of the regulations is undertaken with wide consultation with the partners.

Senator DeWare: You also talk about a rehab program. I understand that many professional people do become addicted because drugs are available to them, pharmacists as well as doctors. Do you have any statistics showing how well the rehab program works? I know that it is a difficult addiction.

Mr. Rowsell: Dr. Cunningham at the Homewood Institute in Guelph has been successful in working with these people. Again, it is a bit like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. A lot of it involves the support by their colleagues. Again, society is recognizing this much more now and, rather than trying to hide these things, we are opening the doors. There is more support amongst their colleagues in the community to help these people get back into practice.

Senator DeWare: I understand there are teams in some of these communities or a doctor assigned who all of a sudden says, "It is time for you to go." Maybe they will lose their licence or opportunity to practice if they do not take the recommendation to go. Is that correct?

Mr. Rowsell: In my bureau, we work with the licensing authorities in how we deal with people who become addicted to these substances. We are attempting to use this voluntary approach. Society has made a big investment in training physicians, pharmacists, dentists and veterinarians. We do not want to lose that investment. We will do anything we can to help these people get back into society and become productive.

Senator DeWare: To what report are you referring?

Mr. Rowsell: A report of the United Nations.

Senator DeWare: It sounds as though they are rapping our knuckles on importing and exporting.

Mr. Rowsell: Correct.

Senator DeWare: Have you made provisions to correct this?

Mr. Rowsell: They are all addressed in the bill.

Mr. Normand: That is specifically why they came to visit us last summer, because they wanted to have this bill adopted.

Senator Jessiman: You said no doctors. Dr. Diane Riley, a member of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, is a medical doctor.

Mr. Rowsell: No, she is a pharmacologist.

Senator Jessiman: She is from the Faculty of Medicine.

In testimony in the other place, Mr. Eugene Oscapella, a director of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, stated that:

We have about 150 years of experience in the drug policy field among the 11 of us who form the founding members of this association, so I urge you to take the sentiments expressed here for what they are: the reasoned views of experienced drug policy researchers.

To be quite blunt, our position is that Bill C-7 should be withdrawn completely. We would like to see the current narcotics laws, the Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drugs Act, revisited seriously, objectively, and openly. We would like to see an independent committee established to report to Parliament within one year on alternatives to the current system of prohibition, which we consider to be fundamentally flawed.

They went on at length. It is pretty heavy stuff, and it opened my eyes. I would have banned the whole works. They even refer to a recent German constitutional decision to decriminalize marijuana in Germany.

Mr. Normand: I raised that specific case because their court decided that the offence was unconstitutional. However, here we have a different charter and different laws. Our courts have determined that this law is constitutional.

Senator Jessiman: I am sure they are studying it like crazy all over the world. This is very serious stuff.

Mr. Rowsell: That is one of the reasons why the subcommittee recommended a review of the drug policy. We were simply given a mandate to look after the administrative parts of the Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drugs Act.

Mr. Normand: It is important to understand that, although a policy review may be undertaken in the next year or so, this legislation is a clear step in the right direction. It modernizes 30-years-old legislation. It brings us in line with our international obligations. It prevents a policy from being undertaken later on. There is a lot of good stuff in this legislation and it is essential. It is needed throughout the community.

Senator Jessiman: Even though the United States as a whole is stringent about enforcement, a number of states are relaxing the law somewhat.

Mr. Rowsell: Yes.

Mr. Normand: Yes.

The Chairman: When you talk about the German constitutional court, in Canada, as far as I am advised, it is the Court of Appeal of Quebec which has dealt with this issue, not the Supreme Court of Canada. That means that the constitutional problem is still open.

Mr. Normand: Yes. The Supreme Court refused leave to appeal on this decision.

The Chairman: They did?

Mr. Normand: Yes. We thought that we should not presume that they favour this approach.

The Chairman: I see your point.

Mr. Saint-Denis: While the Supreme Court has not commented directly, it has certainly given an indirect indication as to the validity of including that particular substance, cannabis, in the regime by refusing leave to hear the case.

The Chairman: Perhaps we should circulate the decision of the Court of Appeal of Quebec to inform members of the committee.

I wish to thank Mr. Rowsell, Mr. Normand, Mr. Saint-Denis and Mr. Dykeman for appearing this morning. We may have to ask you to appear before the committee again. As you have heard, there is much interest in Bill C-7.

The committee adjourned.

Updated: 24 Jul 2001 | Accessed: 27409 times